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Regular wire brushes may be great for removing welding slag and rust from large work pieces, but when it comes to small items, they can be rather inadequate. Sometimes, size does matter. And sometimes, smaller is better.

I've searched far and wide for a worthy wire brush, one that would reach where no other would. But to no avail. How was I supposed to clean the scale off my friend's teapot then?

Sure, you could always use a dremel and a wire wheel to reach tight spots, but even that has its limitations. Power tools are great, but hand tools tend to remain quite reliable over a greater range of circumstances. Power shortage? No problem. They are generally simpler to troubleshoot and repair, often with easily available parts. They are easy to design and fabricate, can be customized at will... and this one fits in your pocket!

Besides, this is an Instructable! It's about making, rather than buying. It's about creative and purposeful reuse, self sufficiency, and flexibility. Nothing beats the feeling of making your own tools from scratch. I'm a big fan of using the right the tool for the right job, but in this case I realized the right tool did not exist. At least not yet...

So I decided to make my own tiny wire brush. And you can now make your own, too.

Step 1: The Ingredients

You will need:

  • Thin springy wire

The wire must be springy and must be thin! The one used here is from a length of clothesline, which consists of two bundles of twisted steel wire, coated with a layer of nylon. Each individual strand was around 0.20 mm in diameter. Five of those twisted together made up each bundle. A reasonable brush can be made with 50 to 70 bundle segments, each 3 cm long. That's 250 to 350 strands per brush. In my case, 1 metre of clothesline was more than enough, but your mileage may vary.

Incidentally, this particular clothesline proved to be worthless as as clothesline - somehow, the steel core got moist and rusted at certain spots. Instead of scrapping it, I harvested the intact steel sections for this project.

Alternatively, you could try using acoustic guitar string. Get the solid steel, bare wire kind, not the wound kind.
A high-E string on my guitar measured 0.27 mm, which would probably work quite well. But this is a single strand. To make a brush, you would need 4-5 strings. This might be a good way to reuse those old broken strings!

  • Wire

This will be wrapped around the bristles. Its length will depend on the number and size of bristles in your brush. Make sure it is not too thick - you will need to wrap it around the bristles of your brush. In my case, 0.9 mm wire worked fine. The length of the wire will depend on how many turns you've chosen for your handle. In my case, 25 cm was enough.

  • Solder + Soldering Iron

Once the brush is assembled, the back of the bristles will be fused together with regular electronics solder.

  • Rubber tape or Heat-shrink tubing

This is used to produce a non-slip grip, and will cover up any sharp points that may be present around the handle.


Other tools

  • Knife
  • Pliers
  • Tin snips
  • Ruler / Tape measure

Safety gear

  • Gloves
  • Eye protection

Step 2: The Making Of

Cutting

  1. Start by skinning the clothesline and extracting the steel cores. About 1m should be plenty. There are many ways of accomplishing this. One way is to pretend you're skinning a fish. The technique is pretty much the same.
  2. Cut the wire into short sections of equal length. 3cm was just right for me. You can cut longer sections if you want a longer handle or longer bristles. Adjust accordingly.
    Whatever tool you use to cut the wire, beware. The wire will fly off in random directions upon being cut. One way to handle this is to lodge the end of the wire under a rag or towel while performing the cut. This will keep the wire sections in place. Wear eye protection!
  3. Stack up all the wire sections you've cut so far. Hold them as you would the final brush. Is the size adequate for your particular needs? If not, cut a few more sections.

Assembly

  1. Make a hook with the thicker wire.
  2. Push your little stack of bristles onto the hook. The hook now divides the length of your bristles in half. Half will become the handle, and the other half will remain exposed.
  3. Roll the stack around the wire, like a sushi roll.
  4. Once you've completed one turn, the stack of bristles should stay put. Don't worry too much if the bristles are not quite parallel.
  5. Continue wrapping. Take your time, keep it tight and snug. Every turn or so, use pliers to flatten the wrapping wire against the bristles.
  6. Don't wrap all the way till the end of the handle. At this point you can take care of any misaligned bristles sticking out of either end. Use the jaw of your pliers - one jaw secured against the edge of the wrapping wire, the other pushing the rogue bristles in line. See Picture.
  7. Trim off the wrapping wire. Try to angle your cut in such a way that it leaves no sharp edges. Aim for a ventral or dorsal cut, not at the sides. You can also file any sharp edges at this point.
  8. Get your soldering iron going. Solder the bristles at the handle end, which should be reasonably aligned by now. If the bristles are clean, the solder should flow readily into the crevices between the bristles and form a solid bond. Make sure all bristles are soldered. Use as much solder as necessary. It is probably better to use slightly too much than too little. Also, try to avoid forming protruding solder spikes as you move your iron away from the work piece.
  9. You can further wrap the handle with self fusing rubber tape or shrink tubing. This will improve the handle grip, and cover up any sharp edges that you might have missed.

Congratulations, it's a baby brush!

Step 3: The Results

The pictures speak for themselves. This brush may be tiny, but don't be fooled. It packs quite a punch.

It is a great addition to any workshop arsenal, and while not meant to replace the regular sized wire brush, this one does what its big brother cannot. They complement each other very well.

Remember the clothesline? This brush will rust if you let it, so don't!
Be sure to keep it dry.

Well, this has been a fun little project.
I hope this finds as many uses for the makers and DIYers of the world as it has for me.

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